My employment before joining Evode Ltd. was with Associated Lead Manufacturers (part of the Goodlass Wall Group) situated at West Ferry Road, Milwall London E14. I worked in the Paints Laboratory involved with raw material testing, colour matching, making up small trial runs and deputising for the Q.C. Supervisor when the need arose. Due to personal circumstances I was seeking relocation somewhere close to the north of Birmingham, and I began looking at job vacancies in that area. The trade paper at the time was 'Paint Oil and Colour', and it was in this publication that I came across an insertion for a Quality Control Chemist required for Paints Division, Evode Stafford.
I duly applied by forwarding a letter detailing experience and further details asked for, and received a letter from Mr R J Edwards, Works Manager with a date for interview. Following this initial meeting I returned a few weeks later to meet Mr Edwards again, this time in the company of Tim Taylor who occupied the position of Chief Inspector. A letter arrived at my home offering the position with a salary of £1,000.00 and a starting date for the first week of March 1964. Arrangements were made by the Personnel Department for me to stay at the Nesbitt Arms, Rising Brook for the first week or so until I found accommodation. In those days I did not own a car, but there was a frequent bus service which ran from town to a stop within the factory site. My first few days were spent being introduced to various individuals I would be working alongside and viewing the various department.
The paints section had been moved to the Common Road site the previous year from Glover Street and was situated to the left of the entrance. The Q.C. Laboratory was the glass fronted end facing the road. Inside, the manufacturing plant consisted of two triple-roll mills. three ball-mills, a high speed Torrance mixer and small motorised stirrers. The products manufactured were of a wide range, -decorative, chlorinated rubber protective coatings, epoxy resin systems and bituminous. Coinciding with my arrival was the transfer of Vik Supplies products to the Paints Department following a fire at the previous location within the Lotus Shoe factory site.
Mr Bernard Preece was manager of the Paints/Vik Supplies Department, and Evan Winter the Foreman, ably assisted by Norman Knight who took care of most of the colour matching. Within the factory there were about eight employees supplemented by two moving in with Vik Supplies together with the small amount of equipment required for the manufacture of latex adhesives, toe-puff solutions and impregnates etc. Within the Q.C. Laboratory, apart from myself were assistants Shirley Bruce and Valerie Durose. The sales area was managed by Roy Macpherson with staff of David Howarth, Alan Bostock and others.
Technical details relating to surface coatings were dealt with by Cyril Lawton in the Development Laboratory on the first floor, and flooring problems by Ted Akerman in the Systems Laboratory. A Samples Department with Les Wilmore reported to Sales. Later on following Quality and Reliability Year (instigated in 1966 by the Wilson Government), a Samples Department was moved to within the Q.C. Laboratory. Fred Birch, a former member of Vik Supplies made up samples of mastic and roofing system products for salesmen on the road.
Shortly after joining Evode I was introduced to Dr. Hermann Simon, the founder of the Company. Dr. Barry Jackson was the Director with ultimate responsibility for technical matters together with the bituminous compositions used for the Evode Roofing System and building additives produced within the Bitumen Department. During the first few days with Evode my new chief brought a member of the staff for me to meet. "He comes from down your way" Tim had told me. I turned around to face Sid Carter. "Well I'm blowed, fancy seeing you here" exclaimed Sid. We had known each other from an earlier time when I was an evening class student on the City & Guilds Paint Technology course at East Ham Technical College. Sid was the part-time laboratory steward involved in issuing equipment, and whatever materials were required.
A most interesting occasion just after joining the Company happened one Friday evening. I was returning to London from Stafford Station and was just in time to board a crowded rain. As I stood in the corridor, Dr Simon came along. He recognised me, couldn't remember my name and invited me to join him for a meal in the restaurant car. There followed a most interesting hour or so as the train made its journey to Euston. He told me of the early days of Evode and the occasional; struggles. We parted when the train arrived, he on his way to visit a daughter in Stuttgart, and then to licensees of the Company in some other part of Europe. As I made my way to Barking to visit my mother, I was quite elated - I had only been in the employment of Evode for a few weeks, and had been invited to dine with the Chairman of the Company.
Some time, maybe a year or so since starting with the Paints Department, it was decided for Cyril Lawton to be seconded from the laboratory to be Technical Manager, although Mr Preece remained over Vik Supplies products. Cyril, the first employee engaged by Dr. Simon, had seen war service with the R.A.F. He had good rapport with the staff and brought in his technical expertise. He became affectionately known as the 'Wing Commander'. The arrival of his car on the car park between the laboratory and office block sent the message around the department that he had 'landed'. On Friday mornings, he would hold what became known as 'briefings'. The lads would congregate in the 'C.O'.s' office (now the Gatehouse) and Cyril would detail the orders for the coming week. Apart from the fact that they were allowed to have a cigarette in there as they sat around the desk on one-gallon paint tins, this importing of information did create a good working relationship. Later on during Cyril's stewardship the paints Division was sold off to Allweather Paints of Gillingham Kent. We continued manufacture until transfer was completed.
Following the departure of the paint products, equipment etc., the Q.C. Laboratory took over the quality control and inspection of the bituminous compositions used in the roofing systems and building additives such as Evoplast, Evoset. Wintrex etc. The laboratory became known as the Chemicals and Coatings Laboratory. Flashband, which was showing increased sales, was another product for the department as the packaging was transferred to the former Paints Department.
During the late 1970s Evode acquired a small company that manufactured varnishes, French polishes and wood dyes. They were well known and traded under the name of 'Furniglas'. Shortly after the acquisition, production was moved to Stafford and located in the former Paints area. Chemicals and Coatings took over the quality control and inspection of these products.
Over the years Dr Simon had created a network of licensees who manufactured our products overseas, and so Evode became a truly international Company. Periodically there would be an overseas licensees conference at Common Road. Jack Butler was a Sergeant in the Corps of Commisionaires and in charge of the Gatehouse. The various licensees would arrive to be greeted by Jack and the front of the office building flying the national flags of their respective countries.
Dr. Simon would often walk around the factory, usually on a Friday morning. "The Doctor's about" became a catch-phrase and early warning system. He would show interest in what was happening and was held in high esteem by his employees. According to those in the know - not a man to be on the wrong side of!!
Within the Q.C. Inspection and former Paints Department, there was very little staff turnover, and locally Evode held a good reputation as an employer. Shirley left and started a family, Valerie who had joined us in her 'teens' married and had a family, returning in later years to rejoin the Company in the Q.A. Department. Some members within the Paints Department were transferred to other areas on site. Tim Taylor retired and John Chard, who was formerly in charge of the Adhesives Laboratory, took over for a time before his retirement. Colin Lovatt then took overall control.
Following rationalisation during the 1980s, the Chemical and Coatings Q.C. Laboratory was shut down. I was transferred to the Adhesive Control Laboratory until my own early retirement in 1989. Fortunately I retain association with Evode as a member of the Long Service 25 Club which meets during May each year. On these happy occasions I am able to renew acquaintance with former colleagues and to reminisce of former times.